Normally 'coral' and 'highlands' are mutually exclusive terms, but the lands of Monster Hunter: World have recently undergone a tectonic makeover, lifting sea-beds high up into the sky and forests down into the swampy mire. The Coral Highlands are one of the new biomes being introduced to the series by World, and they're a sight to behold. Strange, pastel-shaded, vertically arranged and populated by some new and interesting monsters. Come take a peek with me as I rifle through the latest chunk of official gameplay footage released for the upcoming dragon-bothering simulator.
Having started out with the original Monster Hunter way back in the early days of the PS2, the Coral Highlands are a revelation. A complex vertical space where flying creatures truly rule, and there aren't too many flat plateaus to fight easily on, a world away from the arena-spaces of earlier games. It's a playground built explicitly with the new movement tricks of the game (elevator zip-lines, gliders and grappling hooks) in mind, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Not only is it visually striking and alien, but the very means by which you navigate it are fresh and new for the series. Plus, it's nice to see this kind of environment liberated from the clunky swimming controls of Monster Hunter 3.
The environment is populated by an interesting range of critters that look like they should be swimming around underwater, but have adapted seamlessly to their new life as flying, cliff-dwelling beasties. One creature that does look particularly at home above water, though, is the Paolumu, one of the more striking creatures being introduced in World. Part wyvern, part bat, part flying squirrel, all fuzzy. It flaps around and nibbles casually on the coral normally, but if challenged it'll whip you with its huge thwumpy tail, and try to blow you off cliff edges with blasts of compressed air held in its wobbly inflatable neck-balloon organ.
The video ends with the fluffy (and already quite battered) Paolumu being interrupted rudely by a Legiana, an especially graceful-looking wyvern with almost luminous scales and fins that would look at home just as well in the deep sea as flitting through the sky. This being Monster Hunter, it's not just all good looks, and the Legiana puts the oversized mammal its place: on the ground, allowing the opportunistic player a chance to get in a few cheap shots before the monsters resume their high-powered brawl.
With the PC version having slipped all the way back to autumn of this year, the wait for our version of the game has become almost unbearable and each new gameplay video reminds me that I have been neglecting my PS4 somewhat.